First Sandy Bridge notebooks are trickling out in retail

Mostly large, high-spec machines

ITS LESS THAN two weeks since Intel officially unveiled its new Sandy Bridge range of processors and retail notebooks are already hitting the (online)stores en masse. However, it seems to be a bit of an odd launch, as we’re mostly seeing high-end 15.6-inch models with only a handful of smaller models being available so far.

If you want to be an early Sandy Bridge notebook adopter then you better have saved your pennies, as these first machines aren’t going cheap. The starting price for the cheapest model we’ve found with a discrete graphics card is one cent short of a $1,000, not exactly cheap. Then again, even this base model comes loaded with a Core i7 2360QM at 2GHz with 6MB of L3 cache, a Radeon HD 6570M graphics card with 1GB of graphics memory, 6GB of DDR3 memory, a 750GB hard drive and a 17.3-inch screen with 1600×900 resolution and it’s Pavilion DV7 from HP. HP also offers a 15.6-inch DV6 with a screen resolution of 1366×768 and no discrete graphics for $100 less, but otherwise with the same spec. Various upgrade options are available for both models which will increase the pricing by a fair bit over that $1,000 mark.

Lenovo is so far only offering one of its IdeaPads with the new processors and in this case it’s the same model as HP offers. Lenovo is also kitting out these 15.6-inch notebooks with the same graphics solution and same hard drive size, although Lenovo offers 8GB of memory.  You’ll have to fork out an additional $400 to get your hands on one.

So far the only model we’ve found from Dell with Sandy Bridge is the Alienware M17x R.3 but at least it comes with a choice of the Core i7 2630QM, 2720QM or 2820QM, but oddly enough no 2920XM. The starting price is $1499 even and that includes a Radeon HD 6870M with 1GB of memory, or alternatively you can upgrade to a 1.5GB GeForce GTX 460M. The M17x R.3 comes with 4GB of RAM as standard, but can be upgraded to 16GB and it has a 320GB hard drive as standard with option of up to 1.5TB. Finally it has a 17.3-inch screen with 1600×900 resolution which can be upgraded to a 1920×1080 model with or without 3D Vision support.

But it’s not just the big brand names that have models for sale, as the Taiwanese guys are ready as well. Starting with Asus, they’re expecting you to pay up $1,849 for a 17.3-inch G73SW with 1920×1080 resolution, the same Core i7 2630QM processor as the models above, 8GB of DDR3 memory, a GeForce GTX 460M, a pair of 500GB hybrid SSD hard drives, a Blu-ray combo drive and some other toys.

MSI has its GT680R gaming notebook ready and on sale as well and it features a 15.6-inch screen with 1920×1080 resolution, again a Core i7 2630QM processor and GeForce GTX 460M graphics and it too has a pair of 500GB hard drives, although not the hybrid SSD kind and of course 8GB of RAM, all for the sum of $1529.99. We’d like to add that the the MSI GT600 models have fantastic speakers, easily the best notebook speakers we’ve ever heard.

Finally we have two Japanese entries with the Toshiba Qosmio X505 and the Satellite A665. The Qosmio unexpectedly sports a Core i7 2630QM, 6GB of RAM, a 640GB hard drive, a GeForce GTX 460M, a Blu-ray drive and an 18.4-inch screen with 1920×1200 resolution. The Satellite also has the Core i7 2630QM processor, but it has 8GB of DDR3 memory, a 750GB hard drive and a Blu-ray drive. The 15.6-inch screen is disappointing with its 1366×768 resolution, although it’s 3D Vision ready. It’s also the first model we’ve seen listed with a GeForce GT 540M graphics card. The Qosmio will set you back $1,599, while the Satellite is $50 cheaper at $1,549. The Satellite can also be had without discrete graphics, a more basic screen, 6GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive, but with a Blu-ray drive for $999.95.

For those looking for something a bit more affordable the choice is currently quite limited, at least as far as what we’ve managed to find. In fact we haven’t managed to track down a single notebook as yet that features any of the dual core Core i5 or Core i3 processors, so if you want to get something smaller, or cheaper, you’re going to have to wait for now. According to announcements made at CES, we might not see new models until March or April, so if you’re in a hurry to get a new notebook but don’t want 15.6-inches and up, you’re sadly going to have to wait.S|A

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